Many people think that divers watches are the crème de la crème of the watch world. Whilst divers watches might be infinitely more popular than aviation watches, that doesn’t mean to say that they’re better. Especially if you have the funds to invest in the very best pilot watches.
It’s true that a lot of the features are similar in both types of watch. But, the simplicity that’s found in an aviation inspired timepiece is something quite desirable. Now, don’t get me wrong; if you’re looking for a tool that you can use, a divers watch may be the better option. They have a wide variety of different features. Historically, the divers watch has a thick, chunky bezel, which although popular, may not be what you’re looking for. The pilots watch is often a more subtle look, with a certain amount of sophistication.
So without further do, let’s have a look at what we believe to be some of the finest aviation watches available on the market today.
- 1 Under $100
- 2 Under $200
- 3 Under $500
- 4 Under $1000
- 5 Under $5000
- 6 Under $10000
- 7 Over $10,000+
- 8 What is an aviation watch?
Timex Quartz Aviator
If you’re after a good aviation watch, then the likelihood is that you’ll have to spend a bit more than a $100. Fortunately for you however, I’ve managed to find a good option if you’re looking for a super budget friendly option.
This Timex Aviator has full quartz movement, which is impressive at this kind of price. It’s water resistant to 300 feet – not a necessity for an aviation watch but still pretty great. It’s not ideal for those that prefer a more subtle look, at it’s large face makes it pretty brash and something that will undoubtedly stand out from the crowd.
It’s a solid choice for a watch if you haven’t bought a watch like this before. I particularly like the push buttons which are around the crown of this watch.
Seiko have produce some of my favorite budget watches, not only of recent years but of all time. The Japanese powerhouse company has been around for over 100 years now, and their watches have certainly stood the test of time.
I think that the reason I’ve always liked Seiko products is that their products are quite different in their appearance; I mean, you know it’s a Seiko watch just from looking at it. It’s much lighter than the majority of the other watches on the list, and it’s quite understated in comparison. If you’re after a cheap budget option as a pilot watch, then this would be a good option for you.
Casio Men GWA1000 G-Shock
Whilst G Shock aren’t anywhere near as popular as they have been in the past, they still produce some pretty great watches that make solid options if you’re looking for a nice aviation watch.
Of course, one of the best things about G Shock watches is that they’re extremely durable and you don’t need to worry about them breaking. This is an essential for many people, although not something that’s commonly associated with pilot watches. Pilot watches are designed from practicality, but longevity isn’t in their design.
Of course, a G Shock won’t be for everyone and many people find the luminous hands and kinda clunky finish unattractive. It’s really down to personal preference whether you choose to opt for a G shock, but I can say from experience that they’ll last for a good while!
AVI-8 Hawker Hurricane
I’m the first to admit that Avi-8 might not have the prestigiousness that other brands have, but they’re definitely a good option if you want a high quality watch that won’t break easily. This watch has an extremely large face too, which may not be the look that you’re going for.
The large face however, allows for a lot of nice numerals that make this watch aesthetically very pleasing, especially at it’s price range. It’s not a stereotypical aviation watch, and I don’t advise you to go for it if you’re looking for something more commonly perceived as a pilot watch. It is a great option if you’re looking for something stylish that won’t break the bank.
Now, if you’re looking for practicality then this would be a much better option for you. The Garmin D2 gets our pick for the best aviation watch for those with a budget. Whilst it isn’t the most attractive watch in our opinion, it gets picked for its sheer functionality.
The other pilot watches we have listed are more show watches, whereas the Garmin D2 is actually a great option if you’re looking for a solid watch that receives a flight plan directly from Garmin themselves (cool, right?!).
It’s super easy to set reminders on your Garmin D2 and it has a great altimeter. It’s a genuine pilot watch that you can use easily – not too expensive, either.
Citizen Blue Angels
I’m not a massive fan of the Citizen brand usually, but I had to include this one as it’s a pretty great option if you watch a basic aviation watch. Why? Well, it has some really cool specifications and features, that’s why!
It has 1/20 second chrono measures up to 60 minutes, an inclusive perpetual calendar, both 12/24 hour time and some cool non-reflective sapphire crystal. It’s made from stainless steel with nice blue ion plating to finish. One thing that I also like about this pilot watch is that it never needs a battery, which is something that usually annoys me with watches after a while.
Laco Type A
Laco specialise in simplicity, and their watches are some of the best watches that you can find on the market currently. They’re a German brand, and without sounding stereotypical, you can usually rely on German engineering to get stuff done. Their brand really has stood the test of time, which speaks volumes about whether you should invest in their products.
I like both the Laco Type A and the Laco Type B, but I specifically like this model because it’s very good for those who like subtlety. The 42mm face is much smaller on your wrist than other pilot watches, so it would undoubtedly suit someone who wants a watch that can go with any outfit.
Ventus Caspian C-02
The Ventus is again not a typical pilot watch, sacrificing some functions for a more basic look – though it has all the movements that a vintage aviation watch should. I would say that it’s very nice to look at, and it can fit in perfectly with any kind of dress outfit.
Although it’s an understated look, it’s still actually water resistant to 300 feet, which is pretty impressive for a pilot watch that is primarily strap and a small face! Whilst it isn’t personally my favorite pilot watch, it’s a good option and worthy of the list of best pilot watches.
Now, this watch is more my style and something that I can get on board with! Like the Ventus, it has a stylish feel, but a slightly more busy face that in my opinion looks a little better.
If you’re interested in pilot watches from a historical perspective, the this one is very interesting – it’s based on older bombardier watches – the bombardiers needed to track the minutes it would take to hit a target, so needed a watch like this to do that (it’s known as a B-Type watch for this reason).
I particularly like the Satin Steel case, which makes this one of the better looking aviation atches that I’ve featured on this list.
Fortis Pilot Watch
This Fortis Pilot watch is an awesome option if you’re looking for something that will last you a while, as well as having plenty of features.
As we increase the price of our aviation watches, you’ll certainly start to notice a different in the face and the amount of subdials that your watch has. The amount of subdials isn’t quite synonymous with the cost, but it’s not a coincidence that the more expensive watches have more and are more difficult to make.
It’s also water resistant to 200m, which is great if you want a watch that you don’t have to take off when you’re taking a shower – my pet peeve!
Hamilton Pilot Auto
If you want a watch that is beyond having a large watch face, then the Hamilton Pilot is for you. The face on this one is huuuuge, and is a basic take on what you make consider to be the more traditional watch face.
Whilst the functionality of this watch is extremely basic, it’s an awesome option if you aren’t looking to buy a watch for it’s features. If you like a watch just to look pretty, then this may be a good pilot watch for you.
Over the large, slender numerics and sword-shaped hands is a sapphire crystal that is built to deny reflection and avoid giving away your position to enemy troops. Behind all that kit is true Swiss automatic movement and 330 feet of water resistance.
Whilst you may not have heard of Victorinox for their watches – they’re one of the largest swiss army knife creators in the world – they also make some pretty smart watches too.
As you may have expected, the company have utilized some of their steel expertise to make this one of the more sturdy watches in the list. It definitely has a high durability due to the steel all the way around the face.
With the standard 300 feet water resitance and a watch built with Swiss automatic movement, this watch is an awesome option for anyone who is looking for a long lasting watch.
Archimede 42 B Automatic
Another German watch featured in the list of the best aviation watches; are you really surprised? Whilst this watch has Swiss movement like most top quality watches, all the watches made by Archimede are assembled in Germany.
I think you can gather by now that I particularly like the classic design of a watch; plan brown strap with a simple face is my idea of a perfect watch! So with that said, it’s easy to see why this has made it into my list of the best pilot watches around.
It’s at a respectable price for the quality of the design – for a watch that you can wear every day with pretty much any outfit, this one would be a fantastic choice.
Hamilton Khaki Pilot Watch
A more budget friendly option that the other watches that we’ve featured so far, the Hamilton Khaki watch isn’t afraid of grasping some unique aspects that are made to compete with other brands.
One thing that you might not like about this one is the sheer size of the face. Not just in terms of the display, but the watch strap itself has a 22mm width. This is particularly large when compared to other similar watches, so it might be something to bear in mind when considering this one.
It weighs almost 500 grams, so whilst it is a fairly hefty watch, you are getting a respectable quality for the price.
Oris Big Crown Propilot
Another solid option for the fashion consicious but not necessarily for those looking for functionality, the Oris is a nice watch available at a pretty great price. The oversized face is a popular choice amongst watch enthusiasts and makes this a great choice for those who like simplicity.
Whilst this watch isn’t going to take the world by storm, it’s a fantastic choice if you just want a subtle and classy looking watch that will do you well over a long period of time.
Sinn 857 UTC TESTAF
If you’re after something a little more robust, then the Sinn 857 might be a good option for you.
They are one of the most sought after brands internationally, so it’s not easy to get your hands on one of these watches. If you’re after a real pilots watch that will last through pretty much anything, then this is a good option for you. The best part about this watch is undoubtedly it’s black dial, which is very plain yet sophisticated.
This is an awesome option for any real watch enthusiast. Check out this video for a more in depth review;
Bell & Ross WW1-92 Military
The Bell and Ross WW1-92 Military watch speak for itself – it’s a tribute to the pilots that would have worn these watches back in the 1920s.
It’s understated look and distressed strap might not appear to be the most glamorous, and in all honesty it’s not – if you want something flashy, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Though if you want a watch that is truly inspired by pilots, then this one could be a good option for you.
Alpina Startimer Manufacture
The Alpina Startimer is essentially a great example of a brand bowing it’s head in appreciation of some of the older pilots watches from many years ago. From the large dial and oversized numbers to the luminous hands, this is a quintessential watch for any enthusiast.
Just because a watch looks pretty, doesn’t mean that it can’t be practical too. This is an extremely practical watch that can be suitable for a wide variety of occasions if you need it to be. The only issue I have with this watch is that it’s not ideal for those with smaller wrists, so you may need to look elsewhere if this is the case.
Breitling Chronomat 44
The Breitling Chronomat is the epitome of a classic pilot watch. Though it has the bulkier feel of a divers watch, it isn’t overstated and the subtle silver and gold style seem to work well as it has become one of Breitling’s more popular models within its price range.
It isn’t cheap at it’s price, but if you have the extra cash lying around, then you’d be hard pushed to find a watch better than the Chronomat.
Omega Speedmaster Professional
Bremont ALT1-WT World Timer
Breitling Chronomat Airborne
ZENITH MONTRE DAERONEF TYPE 20 GMT
Breitling Exospace B55
IWC Spitfire Chronograph
Zenith Pilot Doublematic
IWC Big Pilot
Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot
What is an aviation watch?
An aviation watch is specifically designed for use in aviation. Now, this has definitely varied over the years and now, you’ll often see more fashion statements around as opposed to practical aviation watches.
Also known or commonly referred to as a pilot watch, this type of watch isn’t that much different to what you would consider a regular watch. Of course, that does depends on what you might perceive to be a regular watch; many people think that a regular watch would be considered a divers watch now, due to their popularity. If you’re wondering, the most common recognition that you’ll find for divers watches is that they’re waterproof and you have the ability to.. dive in them. Yeah, it isn’t rocket science.
So what’s of the most importance to pilots in terms of aviation? Well, primarily they are recognized by their large and clear numbers and writing on the face. It’s important for a pilot to be able to see the exact time clearly. There’s an emphasis on exact time, as it was extremely important for pilots to be able to recognize the time without error. Another reason that they’re normally slightly larger than other watches? Well, they used to be worn around a pilots jacket, hence the necessity for something big and bulky around the wrist.
Aside from this, probably the main feature that any good pilots watch will have is that it will be a chronograph watch. What does this mean? Well, in simple terms, this just means that it’ll be a stopwatch and have a timer. I know; chronograph makes it sound extremely fancy, but the fact is, it isn’t.In fact, the term chronograph has been one of the most popular marketing terms since the early sixties, with thousands of young men desperately wanting a chronograph watch without really knowing what it meant.
If you’re interested, this YouTube video gives a great insight into the more in depth uses of an aviation watch;